Westfield mayor testifies on proposed hands-free driving legislation

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indiana House committee has unanimously voted in favor of a house bill making it illegal for you to pick up your cellphone while driving.

An exception to House Bill 1070, is hands-free or voice-operated technologies, like Bluetooth. Superintendent of the state police says distracted driving caused at least 860 injury crashes across the state last year. Of those, 48 crashes resulted in deaths.

At the Indiana Statehouse, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook testified for the new driving law. Mayor Cook says the city's public safety personnel and police officers all stand firmly behind the bill. For the mayor himself the bill is personal.

"I'm here not only as a mayor, but as a grandfather," Mayor Cook said.

A year and a half ago, Mayor Cook lost a grandchild from a distracted driving incident. His daughter and grandchildren were stuck in stopped traffic when a pickup truck going 78 mph hit them from behind.

The truck that hit his family was covered in security cameras, including one recording the driver.

"He approached the stopped vehicles. As the video showed, I unfortunately have also viewed the video. Totally distracted. Looked down for a long time," Mayor Cook recalls.

Some lawmakers have spoken out against the bill, saying it could step on peoples' rights. 

"I know we're hearing some of that even from members of my own party about this infringing on our rights. My response to that is, 'What about my rights as a grandfather?'" Mayor Cooke testified. 

The full house will vote on the proposal as soon as next week.

The current bill does not address fines. It is possible that holding a phone while driving could carry similar penalties as texting and driving. Those include fines up to $500.

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